Barrett’s esophagus


Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the lining of the esophagus, the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach, becomes thicker and redder due to acid reflux. This condition is usually caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which leads to damage from acid and chemicals. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) often accompanies Barrett’s esophagus and can cause symptoms like heartburn or regurgitation. In some cases, GERD can lead to changes in the cells of the lower esophagus, resulting in Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s esophagus is associated with a slightly increased risk of esophageal cancer, although the actual likelihood is low. Regular checkups involving thorough imaging and biopsies of the esophagus are crucial to detect any precancerous cells called dysplasia. If precancerous cells are found, appropriate treatment can be administered to prevent the development of esophageal cancer.

The treatment for Barrett’s esophagus depends on the extent of abnormal cell growth and the overall health of the individual. It may involve medications to reduce acid reflux, lifestyle changes, endoscopic procedures to remove abnormal tissue, or surgery in severe cases. The treatment plan is tailored to the individual’s circumstances to effectively manage the condition and minimize the risk of esophageal cancer.


Barrett’s esophagus typically does not manifest with noticeable symptoms, but it is important to be vigilant for indications of its associated conditions, namely frequent heartburn, and acid regurgitation. The most significant warning sign is experiencing heartburn at least twice a week. Heartburn is characterized by a burning sensation in the chest and the presence of vomit in the back of the throat, which signals acid regurgitation.

Common signs and symptoms related to Barrett’s esophagus include:

  • Heartburn, that occurs at least twice a week and intensifies
  • Acid regurgitation
  • Painful or difficulty swallowing
  • Sore throat, foul taste in the mouth, or unpleasant breath on a regular basis
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain, rarely

If any of the signs and symptoms related to Barrett’s esophagus or GERD persists, consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Emergency consultation may be necessary when one experiences chest pain, trouble swallowing, has blood on stool, vomiting, or has unexplained weight loss. People who have untreated heartburn on a regular basis are considerably more prone to acquire Barrett’s esophagus.


Barrett’s esophagus can be attributed to several factors. However, the definite cause is unknown.  It is more common among GERD patients. With GERD, the stomach contents run backward into the esophagus. Experts believe that the acidic liquid irritates the esophageal lining, causing tissue damage or alterations.

However, Barrett’s esophagus can exist in the absence of GERD. While many people with Barrett’s esophagus have long-term GERD, many have no reflux symptoms, which is referred to as “silent reflux.”

Risk factors

There are multiple factors that can influence the likelihood of developing Barrett’s esophagus, including:

  • Family history: Having a parent or a family member who had Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer increases one’s chance of having it as well.
  • Gender: Barrett’s esophagus is significantly more common in men.
  • Ethnicity: Being white and non-Hispanic increases the risk of Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Age: Adults over the age of 50 are more susceptible to this condition.
  • Chronic heartburn and acid reflux: People who have experienced heartburn problems for nearly a decade, have GERD requiring frequent medication, or have GERD that does not improve despite taking proton pump inhibitor drugs, are at a higher risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Smoking: A former and current smoker has an increased risk of this disease.
  • Obesity: The chance of developing Barrett’s esophagus is higher with people who have excessive weight, particularly those with too much fat in the abdomen area.